Eli's story

Eli's story

Born more than three months premature, Eli Harris faced numerous challenges during his first few months of life including lung disease, a heart murmur, a brain bleed and an infection that was resistant to antibiotics.

“Eli was conceived during our second round of in-vitro fertilisation and although I was in a high-risk category because of the IVF, my pregnancy was pretty straight forward,” mum  Hope said.

“We were told that there was the potential that he could be delivered anytime from 36 weeks—but they hadn’t really discussed the prospect of him coming any earlier.”

At the couple’s 12 week scan, they were told there was a 1 in 99 chance that their baby would have Edwards Syndrome—a genetic disorder where a portion of chromosome 18 is duplicated—which has a low survival rate.

“We decided to have genetic scans done and they came back clear—we were having a baby boy and there were no genetic issues showing up.”

But just days before her 26 week scan, Hope went into labour.

“I actually went into labour on my birthday, although I didn’t know I was in labour at the time,” she said.

“I’d arranged to go out to dinner on the Gold Coast when I started to get a bit of pain so I called one of the midwives at Mater Private Hospital Redland and they told me to rest and increase my fluid intake and keep them informed about how I was feeling. 

When the pain failed to ease, Hope and her partner Steven attended Mater Private Hospital Redland, where Hope was booked in to give birth in March this year.

“Although I knew the pain wasn’t normal, I didn’t really know what was happening; I didn’t think I was miscarrying but I didn’t think I’d be having my baby that night either,” Hope said.

As hospital staff organised to transfer Hope to Mater Mothers’ Private Brisbane, she was given steroids to help her baby’s lungs develop. But her baby wouldn’t wait. 

“The staff changed the transfer order to a retrieval and tried to rally as many people as they could to assist in the delivery; the room was scattered with people but I just focused on Steven,” Hope said.

Five minutes before the retrieval team arrived, Eli was born. He was transferred to Redlands Public Hospital to be stabilised before being transferred to Mater Mothers’ Neonatal Critical Care Unit (NCCU).

By 10am that morning, Hope had been reunited with her son.

“They took me up to NCCU to see him because I hadn’t actually seen him since he was born,” Hope said.

“That first couple of days is still like a dream; I think my adrenaline was still so high that it was clicking in that Eli was so small and that anything could happen to him.

“In my mind, I’d had my baby and everything was going to be okay and then suddenly it was time for me to go home and I was leaving without my baby.”

It was four days before Hope touched her son for the first time.

“We were allowed to put our hands into his incubator so he knew we were there but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, I was so worried that I’d hurt him because he was so small."

That same afternoon, Eli stopped breathing.

“I’d finally been able to put my hands in to feel him and let him know I was there and that afternoon he stopped breathing while we were in the room; that was the moment the reality hit that he was so sick.

“It was like my world went from colour to black and white; I’d been thinking everything was so rosy and that he was just another baby and would be fine but then I realised he could leave us at any time and what a massive journey lay ahead.”

Eli remained at Mater for 77 days where he was treated for lung disease, a heart murmur and a small brain bleed.

“One of the best things we did was that we never thought about what tomorrow would bring, we just focused on what each day was and the challenges we had to face that day,” Hope said.

Now four months old, Eli is at home with his family.

He still requires weekly check-ups after showing signs of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a condition associated with prematurity in which the blood vessels of the retinas do not develop normally, sometimes leading to blindness.

“It was really surreal to go from being surrounded and supported by people to just being in a room with your baby wondering what to do next," Hope said.

“We got him home and it was like, “Okay, what now?”. We had him in a bassinet in the lounge room and my parents were with us so we all just stood there staring at him. It was really nice.”

Hope praised the team at Mater Mothers’ for their support and care during the family’s stay in the Neonatal Critical Care Unit.

“Every single one of them is second to none; they treat every baby like their own and it just blew me away that they could have so much love for each baby.”

Caption: Hope Jenner and partner Steven Harris with four-month-old son Eli at the Mater Little Miracles 5ks Redland in April 2013.

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